Key Concepts and Summary

12.1 The Building Blocks of Neoclassical Analysis

Neoclassical perspective argues that, in the long run, the economy will adjust back to its potential GDP level of output through flexible price levels. Thus, the neoclassical perspective views the long-run AS curve as vertical. A rational expectations perspective argues that people have excellent information about economic events and how the economy works and that, as a result, price and other economic adjustments will happen very quickly. In adaptive expectations theory, people have limited information about economic information and how the economy works, and so price and other economic adjustments can be slow.

12.2 The Policy Implications of the Neoclassical Perspective

Neoclassical economists tend to put relatively more emphasis on long-term growth than on fighting recession, because they believe that recessions will fade in a few years and long-term growth will ultimately determine the standard of living. They tend to focus more on reducing the natural rate of unemployment caused by economic institutions and government policies than the cyclical unemployment caused by recession.

Neoclassical economists also see no social benefit to inflation. With an upward-sloping Keynesian AS curve, inflation can rise because an economy is approaching full employment. With a vertical long-run neoclassical AS curve, inflation does not accompany any rise in output. If aggregate supply is vertical, then aggregate demand does not affect the quantity of output. Instead, aggregate demand can only cause inflationary changes in the price level. A vertical aggregate supply curve, where the quantity of output is consistent with many different price levels, also implies a vertical Phillips curve.

12.3 Balancing Keynesian and Neoclassical Models

The Keynesian perspective considers changes to aggregate demand to be the cause of business cycle fluctuations. Keynesians are likely to advocate that policy makers actively attempt to reverse recessionary and inflationary periods because they are not convinced that the self-correcting economy can easily return to full employment.

The neoclassical perspective places more emphasis on aggregate supply. The level of potential GDP is determined by long term productivity growth and that the economy typically will return to full employment after a change in aggregate demand. Skeptical of the effectiveness and timeliness of Keynesian policy, neoclassical economists are more likely to advocate a hands-off, or fairly limited, role for active stabilization policy.

While Keynesians would tend to advocate an acceptable tradeoff between inflation and unemployment when counteracting a recession, neoclassical economists argue that no such tradeoff exists; any short-term gains in lower unemployment will eventually vanish and the result of active policy will only be inflation.